Agronomic performance, chemical composition and Fusarium verticillioides resistance of Italian white maize varieties

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C. Lanzanova
A. Arrigoni
P. Valoti
M. Alfieri
S. Locatelli


maize Italian germplasm, fungal pathogen, artificial inoculation, nutritional quality, mycotoxins


White maize varieties were mainly grown in Italy before the advent of hybrids. The characterisation of their nutritional quality and safety will help to enhance the biodiversity of traditional materials, and to exploit it for food production. In fact, in recent years attention has been focused on the use of white maize varieties for the preparation of maize-based gluten-free products for coeliacs. Moreover it is also known that mycotoxin contamination of maize grain is a global threat to the safety of both human food and feed. In order to recover the biodiversity of traditionally maize, twenty-one Italian white maize varieties available at CREA Bergamo genebank were cultivated in Bergamo and Cremona in 2016. These genotypes were evaluated for grain chemical composition and agronomic performance; moreover an inoculation trial was carried out to test their resistance/susceptibility to Fusarium verticillioides. Chemical composition of the grain showed a wide range of variability; the samples from Bergamo accumulated more starch, whereas the plants grown in Cremona showed a higher content of proteins, lipids and total antioxidant capacity. Some varieties (VA86, VA1239 and VA1245) were valuable in both environments for their protein and lipid content, while VA185 showed a good 1000 kernels weight, in addition to interesting values of yield and test weight. Considerable variability was observed in fumonisin contamination. The response to fungal attack was very different in the two environments, the varieties grown in Cremona showed higher number of infected kernels at the inoculum point and higher level of fumonisins compared to the plants grown in Bergamo. Interestingly, some varieties (VA117, VA1213) showed a low fumonisin contamination in both locations. These genotypes could be potentially suitable for breeding programs with the aim to find new sources of genetic variability to improve the nutritional quality of maize genotypes and their resistance to pathogens.

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